Today, there’s no question. Setting up an online presence should be a top priority for any new startup, established company or creative hoping to build a personal brand.

Even if you don’t sell products or services online, a website is a key way for people to discover your business and an important brand building and promotional tool.

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But taking to the wild west of the web to carve out a plot can be a daunting proposition.

However, more than ever, it’s intuitive and simple. Follow these steps to create a slick website worthy of your startup.

If you’re a coding wizard then you can get started building a site from scratch, but if like most of us, your IT skills extend to refreshing your Twitter feed, then you’re first port of call is going to be a website builder. (We list some of the best later on.)

But before you do this, it’s important to consider what function you want your website to have and how you’re going to achieve your digital objectives. This leads us to step one…

Step 1 - Plan your website

Before diving in and signing up to a website builder it’s important to decide some key points about your site. This will include thinking about your main objectives, which could include:

  • Selling services or products
  • Showcasing creative work 
  • Brand promotion 
  • Service promotion

After considering what you want your website to achieve, there are a few other things to think about:

  • Who is your target audience? (e.g. gender, age, income, personality)
  • Decide on a metric to measure the success of your website - is it traffic, ‘hits’ or sales? Set a target and aim to meet it. 
  • But most importantly, what will your domain name be?

Choosing a domain name

“What’s in a name?” Queried Shakespeare in 1595, horribly dating his whole oeuvre. Because in the internet age - when it comes to domain names - quite a lot.

Choosing a name for your domain is simpler if you already have an off-line brand, such as a brick-and-mortar store. If you don’t already have a name, choose one that is memorable, distinct, and communicates information about your brand or product.

If you do have a name, one of the most nerve-wracking parts of this process will be finding out whether this domain name is still available.

Here, you can check whether your name has already been nabbed or not. If you’re taken straight to the registration page, congrats it’s available! If not, you may as well disband the business and liquidate all assets now.

Even if your name is available though, the decisions aren’t over, because you still have to wade through an oozing hotchpotch of suffixes.

What do you settle on - the generic blandness of ‘.com’, the wheeler-dealer undertones of ‘.biz’, or the wide-eyed sincerity of ‘.info’? Top-level domain extensions (gTLDs) mean that you can be increasingly specific with your domain name, for example, ‘.lawyer’ for a law practice or ‘.plumbing’ for a - you guessed it - plumbing practice.

Although it might be tempting to change the domain extension if your company name is available with a different suffix, it could be a dangerous move.

It’s advisable to settle on ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’ (depending on your location), because these are the suffixes people most commonly use to search website names.

On the flip side, consider registering multiple different domains with your business name to maintain ownership of your brand.

Remember, your website will be jostling for attention among over a billion others on ye olde interweb, so choose your domain name wisely.

Here are some more tips for selecting the most searchable and discoverable domain name:

  • Easy to type (something people would be able to type correctly after hearing it)
  • Short but catchy 
  • Use keywords relevant to your company if possible so that web searches may be more likely to turn up results
  • If offering an area-specific service or product, consider adding the location name into your domain name to potentially rank higher in local searches and differentiate yourself from other companies that might have similar names

Step 2 - Choose a website builder

Ok, now you’re ready to pick the host for your website and crack on with getting your business online. You have a choice between a Content Management System (CMS) like Wordpress and using a DIY website builder.

We have a more in-depth article on the differences between these website builders here. But to summarise, here are five sites that consistently come top in terms of the price-usability trade-off matrix:

  • Wix
  • Sitebuilder
  • Wordpress 
  • Weebly 
  • Squarespace

Step 3 - Decide on content for your website

Once you’ve picked the host for your website, it’s time to decide what content you’re going to feature on the site.

For startup owners, this can sometimes be intimidating but don’t worry, the site doesn’t need to have a lot of written content.

In fact, minimal text and clear options for the visitor’s next steps are usually more effective.

As a foundation, it’s best to begin with four or five basic pages which you can expand on if necessary. These are as follows:

  • Homepage - Make this page as appealing as possible as it’s likely visitors will land here first. Clearly, display your brand name and make sure it communicates what your products or services are. Feature images which communicate your brand and a few lines of text summarising what your business does. 
  • About Us - This section focuses on your brand story and evolution. Clearly communicate your brand values and differentiate yourself from the competition. It’s particularly important to think about tone here. Will you adopt an informal, chatty tone to engage customers? Or do you want to speak to them in a serious, professional manner? This decision will stem from who you have decided your audience is. You can also include customer testimonials here (or on a separate page) to promote the good qualities and trustworthiness of your brand. 
  • Products/Services - Outline information about all of the products and services you offer. Illustrate short descriptions with high-quality photographs which highlight your product or service’s best assets. Include information about pricing here too. 
  • Contact Us - Include all of your contact details and embed a Google map of where your physical location is. Also put links to your social accounts. 
  • Testimonials (Optional) - Include positive customer feedback to inspire trust in visitors.

Step 4 - Design your website

When it comes to designing your website, it’s a good idea to look at sites offering a similar product to you in order to decide on the look you’re going for. Some things to consider are:

  • Colour scheme
  • Fonts that fit your brand
  • Page Layout 
  • How you can use images, videos or graphics

It’s generally advisable to adopt a clear, clean layout and avoid fussiness or overcrowding of content.

When it comes to written content, split up text by inserting plenty of breaks and pictures. Also consider using headings to divide text up and make it easier to digest.

Make sure the colour scheme is aesthetically pleasing and matches or compliments the colour of your logo.

When it comes to font, make sure it’s a size and style that are easy to read. Nothing is more off-putting than small, indecipherable font. If you want visitors to read on, make it easy for them to do so.

For any images featured, make sure they are very high quality. Decide how big you want them to be and the positioning.

If you aren’t able to take your own pictures, use sites like Flickr and Pixabay to find photos licensed under creative commons.

These are available for you to use without risking accusations of copyright infringement.

Security is another important issue to consider. Check out our cyber security advice here.

Remember to clearly link to your social pages on your site, maximising your social reach.

Another increasingly important consideration is whether or not your site is mobile-friendly.

In 2018, 52 percent of all web traffic is generated through mobile, so it’s vital your site appears the same on mobile as it does on desktop.

Step 5 - Drive traffic to your site

So you’ve got your website, you can sit back, relax and watch those eager clicks start pouring in, right? Wrong. As we noted before, there are a billion other sites out there. Of course, there will be far less in your particular niche, but even there you will have to work hard for visibility.

Unless you aim to only be discovered through social channels or other web pages, you’ll have to do everything you can to be discoverable through search.

Welcome to the tortuous world of search engine optimisation (SEO). The holy grail of SEO is achieving a high search ranking when words related to your site are typed into the search engine.

To achieve this, there are several principles it’s important to understand and apply:

  • Keywords - Choose keywords wisely that are closely related to your business. Think about what potential customers might search when looking for a business similar to yours. But don’t overload content with keywords, it will put visitors off. 
  • Content - Make your content as relevant and informative as you can. 
  • Links - Link to other relevant content within or out of your site 
  • Optimising images - Tag your images with relevant keywords
  • Meta description tags - These are the short blurbs that appear below your website name in a search. They provide another opportunity to place meaningful keywords and grab the attention of potential visitors to your site. 
  • Easy site navigation - Your site should be simple and intuitive to peruse

For more information about Google’s SEO information, you can access their resources here.